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The town of Paradise and areas nearby were devastated by the Camp Fire that started on Nov. 8, 2018 in Butte County.

Today’s program is a view from Paradise, both before and after the Camp Fire. Journalist Mark Arax traces the long history of the town of Paradise, from gold mining through the area’s agricultural and urban growth. Arax looks at this through the lens of politics, examines early fire-fighting approaches and explores the circumstances leading up to last November’s fire. He calls this “a myriad of factors that lined up in perfect continuity.”

Then, an encore broadcast of the conversation with Sacramento artist Stephanie Taylor. She created an art project, book and exhibit with Paradise resident Christy Heron-Smith, whose family’s homes were destroyed in the fire. 

Mark Arax is an award-winning author based in Fresno. His latest book is “The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California.” He’s written a recent piece for California Sunday Magazine titled “Gone.” It has the subheading: “Decades of greed, neglect, corruption and bad politics led to last year’s Paradise fire, the worst in California history. It should never have happened. It will happen again.” The article starts with the words: “By the time I made it to Paradise…” Insight host Beth Ruyak spoke with Arax earlier this summer about his visit to Paradise. 

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Arax talked about the factors leading up to California's devastating wildfires, and about Richard Wilson, who headed Cal Fire in the 1990s. Wilson had a very specific opinion of what has happened to California's forests and how they've been managed.

People who survive wildfires often take different paths through their grieving and healing process. For a woman named Christy Heron-Clark, everyday items that were in the ashes of her house and her grandparents’ house in Paradise became treasures. She joined with artist Stephanie Taylor in an excavation of what was left at the family homes. What they found became an art project, a book and a powerful exhibit, called Simple Objects: An Excavation. It was at the Archival Gallery in Sacramento through June 2019. Taylor began the conversation by reading from the book that accompanied the exhibit.

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